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Swahili phrasebook

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Revision as of 19:14, 22 November 2010 by 134.2.84.152 (Talk)

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Swahili or Kiswahili, is the official language of Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. Swahili speakers can also be found in surrounding countries, such as Burundi, Rwanda, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While only 5-10 million people speak Swahili as their first language, as a second language, there are over 50 million speakers, making it the most widely spoken African language in the world. As a part of the Bantu language family, Swahili is related to a variety of languages from Southern Africa to West Africa. While some Bantu languages, like Xhosa and Zulu are click languages, Swahili does not use clicks, so pronunciation is generally not difficult for English speakers.


Pronunciation guide

Vowels

Swahili has five vowels: a, e, i, o, u. If you are familiar with Spanish or Japanese, the vowels are pronounced the same. If not, they are pronounced:

A - ah (Like the "a" in "father")
E - eh (Like the "a" in "say")
I - ee (Like the "ee" in "see")
O - oh (Like the "o" in "cone")
U - oo (Like the "oo" in "doom")

Vowels in Swahili always make the same sounds, even when combined with other vowels. There are no silent letters or diphthongs in Swahili, so vowels will always make the same sound, and it is important that you pronounce each vowel, even when one vowel follows another. For example, in the word "daawa" (lawsuit), you must say "dah-ah-wah", pronouncing both of the a's. Simply saying "dah-wah" (dawa) changes the meaning to "drug/medicine".

Consonants

The following consonants are pronounced the same as in English:

like the "b" in "bay"
like the "d" in "dog"
like the "f" in "fun"
like the "g" in "gut"
like the "h" in "hen"
like the "j" in "jam"
like the "k" in "kit"
like the "l" in "lump"
like the "p" in "pot"
like the "s" in "sun"
like the "t" in "tip"
like the "v" in "van"
like the "w" in "win"
like the "y" in "yellow"
like the "z" in "zebra"

Other consonants

like the "m" in "mop".
like the "n" in "numb"

Although "m" and "n" are pronounced the same in Swahili as they are in English, unlike English, these letters can often be found at the beginning of words followed by other consonants, such as "t", "d", etc. Since Swahili has no silent letters, it is important to pronounce these letters. So for words like "Mchana" (afternoon) and "Ndugu" (sibling/relative), you needs to pronounce the "m" and "n" sounds along with the following consonant sounds.

The "r" sound is not pronounced as it is in English. Actually, like the vowels, the "r" sound is the same as Spanish and Japanese; a soft "r" that sometimes sounds like a "d".




Consonant pairings

ch 
like the "ch" in "chat"
ng 
like the "ng" in "sing"
ny 
like the "ni" in "onion"
gh 
officially pronounced similiar to the "ch" in "loch", you can alternatively just pronounce it with a hard "g", like the "g" in "gut" (as mentioned above)
sh 
like the "sh" in "dash"
th 
like the "th" in "thank". It is never pronounced like the "th" in "those". That "th" is spelled "dh" in Swahili.
dh 
like the "th" in "the". It is important not to confuse "dh" with the Swahili "th" above.

Common diphthongs

There are no diphthongs in Swahili; however, foreign names and loan words may contain them.

Phrase list

Basics

Note that greetings in Swahili are very important, and long and drawn out - you can go back and forth several times, using not one but all of the greetings you know.

Hello. (to one person) 
Hujambo (response: Sijambo)
Hello. (to a group) : Hamjambo (response: Hatujambo)
Hello to an older person or authority figure. 
Shikamoo (shee-kah-moh) (response: Marahaba). Some people frown on the use of Shikamoo because it started out as a servant's greeting to his/her master.
Hello. (informal
Sasa / Mambo / Jambo (generally said only to tourists). This is 'Sheng' or Swahili slang. Most locals are not impressed if you greet them using Sheng.
Response to informal hello 
Mzuri (fine), Safi (clean/in order), Poa (cool), Poa kichizi kama ndizi (crazy cool like a banana)
How are you? 
Habari yako? (lit.: Your news?)
How are you? (alternative)
Ukoje? Response: Niko salama.
How are you? (alternative)
U hali gani? (lit.: What's your condition?)
How are you today? 
Habari ya leo?
How are you this morning? 
Habari ya asubuhi?
How are you this afternoon? 
Habari ya mchana?
How are you this evening? 
Habari ya jioni?
How was your journey / trip / safari? 
Habari za safari?
How have you been today? 
Umeshindaje leo?
Fine, thank you. 
Nzuri, asante.
What is your name? 
Jina lako ni nani?
My name is ______ . 
Jina langu ni ______.
Where are you from? 
Unatoka wapi?
I am from _______. 
Ninatoka nchi ya _______(your country).
Please. 
Tafadhali.
Thank you (very much). 
Asante (sana).
You're welcome. 
Karibu.
Yes. 
Ndiyo.
No. 
Hapana.
I don't need. (Polite way of saying you don't want to buy anything) 
Sihitaji.
Excuse me. (getting attention
Samahani.
I'm sorry (in the sense of "pardon me"; used for minor transgressions). 
Samahani.
I'm sorry (in the sense of "please forgive me for wronging you"; used for major transgressions). 
Nasikitika.
Goodbye 
Kwa heri.
Good night. 
Usiku mwema.
Sleep well. 
Lala Salama.
Did you sleep well? 
Umelalaje?
Umeamkaje (lit.: did you wake up well?)
See you later. 
Tutuonana baadaye.
Later. 
Baadaye.
See you tomorrow. 
Tutuonana kesho.
My Swahili is terrible 
Kiswahili changu ni kibaya sana.
I can't speak Kiswahili. 
Siwezi kusema Kiswahili.
I only speak a little Kiswahili. 
Ninaongea Kiswahili kidogo tu.
Do you speak English? 
Unazungumza Kiingereza?
Bathroom 
Bafu
Toilet 
Choo
Help! 
Msaada!
Where is the _______? 
_____(e.g. bathroom, police station...) iko wapi?

Grammatically, this would depend on the noun class of the object in question. E.g. for bathroom, it would be 'Kiko', not 'Iko'. There are 18 noun classes in Swahili.

Problem(s)

Leave me alone. 
Uniache!
Don't touch me! 
Usiniguse!
I'll call the police. 
Nitaita polisi!
Police! 
Polisi!
Help! 
Msaada!
Stop! Thief! 
(Saying this in Swahili could likely result in violent death for the thief at the hands of self appointed vigilantes. Your item may or may not be recovered.) Simama, mwizi!
I need your help. 
Ninaomba msaada.
I'm lost. 
Nimepotea.
I lost my bag. 
Nimepoteza mfuko wangu.
I lost my wallet. 
Nimepoteza pochi.
I'm sick. 
Mimi ni mgonjwa.
I've been injured. 
I need a doctor. 
Ninahitaji daktari.
Can I use your phone? 
Ninaomba kutumia simu yako?

Numbers

One. 
Moja
Two. 
Mbili
Three. 
Tatu
Four. 
Nne
Five. 
Tano
Six. 
Sita
Seven. 
Saba
Eight. 
Nane
Nine. 
Tisa
Ten. 
Kumi
Twenty. 
Ishirini
Thirty. 
Thelathini
Forty. 
Arobaini
Fifty. 
Hamsini
Sixty. 
Sitini
Seventy. 
Sabini
Eighty. 
Themanini
Ninety. 
Tisini
One Hundred. 
Mia moja
One Thousand. 
Elfu moja

Time

now 
Sasa
later 
Baadaye
before 
Kabla ya
after 
Baada ya
morning 
Asubuhi
afternoon 
Mchana
evening 
Jioni
night 
Usiku

Clock time

What time is it? 
Saa ngapi?

In Swahili, the morning does not begin at midnight (12 AM); instead, it begins at 7:00 AM. Daytime revolves around the rising and setting of the sun, which typically begins to rise around 7 AM and set at 7 PM in the areas where Swahili is spoken. For English speakers, this can be confusing; however, those who learn how to tell time in Swahili will admit that it is more logical than the English system, in which midnight is considered "morning", even though no one begins their day at midnight.

So, to say the time in Swahili, you need to add (or subtract) 6 from the English time. 7:00 in America will be expressed as the first hour (1:00) in Swahili. AM is expressed with asubuhi (morning) and PM is typically marked with usiku (night). Because the daytime begins at 7 AM, hours from midnight to 6 AM will be expressed with usiku, as these are nighttime hours in Swahili. Jioni (evening) can be used in place of usiku for hours that are not so late, such as 7 PM.

7 o'clock AM 
saa moja asubuhi
7.15 AM
saa moja na robo asubuhi
7.20 AM
saa moja na dakika ishirini asubuhi
7.30 AM
saa moja na nusu asubuhi
7.45 AM
saa mbili (kasoro robo = kasorobo)
7.50 AM
saa mbili kasoro dakika kumi asubuhi
8 o'clock AM 
saa mbili asubuhi
9 o'clock AM 
saa tatu asubuhi
Noon (12 o'clock PM) 
saa sita asubuhi
1 o'clock PM 
saa saba mchana
2 o'clock PM 
saa nana mchana
7 o'clock PM 
saa moja usiku
8 o'clock PM 
saa mbili usiku
9 o'clock PM 
saa tatu usiku
Midnight (12 o'clock AM) 
saa sita usiku

Duration

dakika_____ minute(s) 
saa (masaa)_____ hour(s) 
siku_____ day(s) 
wiki_____ week(s) 
mwezi (miezi)_____ month(s) 
mwaka (miaka)_____ year(s) 
duration ____ muda
how long ____ muda gani

Days

In Swahili, the first day of the week is Saturday. The name of Saturday combines juma (week) and mosi (one/first). You can think of it as meaning roughly "the first of the week". The other days are the same, with the exception of Thursday and Friday, which do not follow the pattern.

Saturday 
Jumamosi
Sunday 
Jumapili
Monday 
Jumatatu
Tuesday 
Jumanne
Wednesday 
Jumatano
Thursday 
Alhamisi
Friday 
Ijumaa

Months

Month 
mwezi

In Tanzania, the names of the months in parenthesis are rarely used. Instead, they refer to them as first month, second month, etc.

January 
Mwezi wa kwanza (Januari)
February 
Mwezi wa pili (Februari)
March 
Mwezi wa tatu (Machi)
April 
Mwezi wa nne (Aprili)
May 
Mwezi wa tano (Mei)
June 
Mwezi wa sita (Juni)
July 
Mwezi wa saba (Julai)
August 
Mwezi wa nane (Agosti)
September 
Mwezi wa tisa (Septemba)
October 
Mwezi wa kumi (Oktoba)
November 
Mwezi wa kumi na moja (Novemba)
December 
Mwezi wa kumi na mbili (Desemba)

Seasons

Swahili speaking countries generally experience 2 seasons: rainy/hot and cold/dry. Swahili does not have words for "autumn" or "spring", etc.

Season 
majira
Summer 
kiangazi
Winter 
majira ya baridi
Spring 
majira ya machipuko
Fall  
majira ya majani kupukukika

Writing time and date

Colors

black 

-eusi

blue 

-a kibuluu

brown 

-a rangi ya kahawia

colours 

rangi

gray 

-a rangi ya kijivu

green 

-a rangi ya kijani

orange 

-a rangi ya machungwa

pink 

-a waridi

purple 

-a rangi ya urujuani

red 

-ekundu

white 

-eupe

yellow 

-a kimanjano

Transportation

Bus and train

Minibus (Kenya, Uganda) 
Matatu
Minibus (Tanzania) 
Daladala
Passenger 
Abiria
How much is a ticket to _____?

Tikiti ya kwenda ____ shengapi?

One ticket to _____, please. 

Naomba tikiti moja ya kwenda ____.

Where does this train/bus go? 

Treni/basi hii inakwenda wapi?

Does this train/bus stop in _____? 

Treni/basi itakwenda ____?

When does the train/bus for _____ leave? 

Treni/basi itaondoka lini?

When will this train/bus arrive in _____? 

Treni/basi itafika lini _____?

Directions

How do I get to _____ ? 
Je, ninakwenda ____
...the train station? 
...the bus station? 
...the airport? 
...downtown? 
Mjini
...the youth hostel? 
...the _____ hotel? 
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate? 
Where are there a lot of... 
...hotels? 
hoteli
...restaurants? 
mgahawa
...bars? 
...sites to see? 
Can you show me on the map? 
street 
Turn left. 
Pinda kushoto
Turn right. 
Pinda kulia
left 
Kushoto
right 
Kulia
straight ahead 
Moja kwa moja
towards the _____ 
past the _____ 
Baada ya ____
before the _____ 
Kabla ya ____
Watch for the _____. 
Angalia kwa ____
intersection 
north 
south 
east 
west 
uphill 
downhill 

Taxi

Taxi! 
Take me to _____, please. 

Nipeleke......, tafadhali

How much does it cost to get to _____? 

itakuwa pesa ngapi kunifikisha------?

Take me there, please. 

Tafadhali nipeleke huko basi:

Lodging

Do you have any rooms available? 
How much is a room for one person/two people? 
Does the room come with... 
...bedsheets? 
...a bathroom? 
...a telephone? 
...a TV? 
May I see the room first? 

Naweza kukiona chumba kwanza?

Do you have anything quieter? 
...bigger? 

kikubwa?

...cleaner? 

kisafi?

...cheaper? 

bei nafuu?

OK, I'll take it. 

Sawa basi, nitakichukua.

I will stay for _____ night(s). 

nikakitumia usiku-----.

Can you suggest another hotel? 
Do you have a safe? (...)
...lockers? 
Is breakfast/supper included?
What time is breakfast/supper? 
)
Please clean my room. 
Can you wake me at _____? 
I want to check out. 

Money

Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars? 
Do you accept British pounds? 
Do you accept credit cards? 
Can you change money for me? 
Unaweza kubadilia pesa mimi?
Where can I get money changed? 
Ninaweza kubadilisha pesa wapi?
Can you change a traveler's check for me? 
Where can I get a traveler's check changed? 
What is the exchange rate? 
Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)? 

Eating

A table for one person/two people, please. 
Can I look at the menu, please? 
Can I look in the kitchen? 
Ninaweza kuona jikoni?
Is there a house specialty? 
Is there a local specialty? 
I'm a vegetarian. 
Mimi ni mla mboga
I don't eat pork. 
Sili nyama ya nguruwe
I don't eat beef. 
Sili nyama ya n'gombe
I only eat kosher food. 
Can you make it "lite", please? (less oil/butter/lard
Pumguza mafuta/siagi/
fixed-price meal 
a la carte 
breakfast 
kifungua kinywa / chakula cha asubuhi
lunch 
chakula cha mchana
Food  
Chakula
tea (meal
supper 
I want _____. 
Ninataka
I want a dish containing _____. 
Banana  
Ndizi
Goat  
Mbuzi
chicken 
Kuku
beef 
N'gombe
fish 
Samaki
ham 
sausage 
cheese 
Jibini
eggs 
Mayai
salad 
(fresh) vegetables 
Mboga (singular), Maboga (plural)
(fresh) fruit 
Mtunda (singular), Matunda (plural)
bread 
Mkate
toast 
noodles 
Tambi
rice 
Wali (cooked rice), Mchele (uncooked)
beans 
Maharage
May I have a glass of _____? 
Ninaomba glasi moja ya ____.
May I have a cup of _____? 
Ninaomba kikombe kimoja cha ____.
May I have a bottle of _____? 
Ninaomba chupa moja ya ____.
coffee 
Kahawa
tea (drink
Chai
juice 
(bubbly) water 
water 
Maji
beer 
Pombe, Bia
red/white wine 
May I have some _____? 
Ninaomba
salt 
Chumvi
black pepper 
pilipili manga
butter 
Siagi
Excuse me, waiter? (getting attention of server)
Samahani
I'm finished. 
Nimemaliza
It was delicious. 
Chakula ni kitamu
Please clear the plates. 
Uondoe masahani tafadhali
The check, please. 

Bars

Do you serve alcohol? 
Is there table service? 
A beer/two beers, please. 
A glass of red/white wine, please. 
A pint, please. 
A bottle, please. 
Chupa moja, tafadhali.
_____ (hard liquor) and _____ (mixer), please. 
whiskey 
vodka 
rum 
water 
Maji
club soda 
tonic water 
orange juice 
Coke (soda
Do you have any bar snacks? 
One more, please. 
Moja nyingine,tafadhali
Another round, please. 
When is closing time? 
Saa ya kufunga ni lini?
Cheers! 
Maisha marefu

Shopping

Do you have this in my size? 
How much is this? 
Bei gani?
That's too expensive. 
Ni Ghali Sana.
Would you take _____? 
expensive 
Ghali
cheap 
Rahisi
I can't afford it. 
Sina pesa za kutosha
I don't want it. 
Sitaki
You're cheating me. 
I'm not interested. 
OK, I'll take it. 
Sawa, nitachukua.
Can I have a bag? 
Nipe mfuko mmoja tafadhali.
Do you ship (overseas)? 
I need... 
Ninahitaji
...toothpaste. 
...a toothbrush. 
Mswaki
...tampons. 
...soap. 
Sabuni
...shampoo. 
...pain reliever. (e.g., aspirin or ibuprofen
...cold medicine. 
Dawa ya mafua
...stomach medicine. 
Dawa ya tumbo
...a razor. 
...an umbrella. 
Mwavuli
...sunblock lotion. 
...a postcard. 
...postage stamps. 
...batteries. 
...writing paper. 
Karatasi ya kuandika
...a pen. 
Kalamu
...English-language books. 
Kitabu cha Kiingereza (singular) / Vitabu vya Kiingereza (plural)
...English-language magazines. 
...an English-language newspaper. 
Gazeti la Kiingereza
...an English-English dictionary. 
Kamusi ya Kiingereza

Driving

I want to rent a car. 
Can I get insurance? 
stop (on a street sign
one way 
yield 
no parking 
speed limit 
gas (petrol) station 
petrol 
diesel 

Authority

I haven't done anything wrong. 
It was a misunderstanding. 
Where are you taking me? 
Am I under arrest? 
Je, mimi chini ya kukamatwa?
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen. 
I want to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate. 
I want to talk to a lawyer. 
Can I just pay a fine now? 

Country and territory names

United States 
Marekani
Canada 
Kanada
Mexico 
Meksiko
Brazil 
Brazil
United Kingdom 
Uingereza
Ireland 
Eire, Ayalandi
Russia 
Urusi
France 
Ufaransa
Netherlands 
Uholanzi
Germany 
Udachi, Ujerumani
Italy 
Italia


Kenya 
Kenya
Tanzania 
Tanzania
Zanzibar (Tanzanian Island) 
Unguja
Uganda 
Uganda
Democratic Republic of the Congo 
Jamhuri ya Kidemokrasia ya Kongo
South Africa 
Afrika Kusini
Nigeria 
Nijeria
Ethiopia 
Uhabeshi
China 
Uchina
Japan 
Japani
Singapore 
Singapuri
South Korea 
Korea Kusini
India 
Uhundi
Israel 
Uyahudi
Australia 
Australia
New Zealand 
Nyuzilandi

On safari

Cheetah  
Duma
Elephant 
Tembo
Giraffe  
Twiga
Hippo  
Kiboko
Lion  
Simba
Ostrich  
Mbuni
Snake  
Nyoka
Zebra  
Punda Milia

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